tv Book Discussion on Dallas 1963 CSPAN November 16, 2013 3:30pm-4:16pm EST
palm beach and an apartment at the carlyle in new york and private schools, ivy league colleges all the way through. so, you know, they just came at it from different angles and, you know, you can't know what would have happened in that second term if kennedy had lived. but my guess is that you wouldn't have seen as big a domestic spending program as we got under johnson just because he had, you know, he had had a first term, and there was, there were just very few signs of it, if any. >> hi, ira. >> hi, kate. >> so my question for you is i'm curious what you think the formative influences were for jfk's conservativism. and i know you mentioned his catholicism which is, obviously, probably a big one. and you also mention his, you know, personal wealth and his background. but i'm just sort of curious
whether you think there are sort of real sort of ideological conservativism as opposed to just some of these kind of formative influences, you know, whether you saw evidence of that in his writings or in his, you know, his conversations. >> are -- yeah. well, you know, i think the best clues we have are these speeches where he talked about the individual versus the state and god given rights. this' the closest -- that's the closest here got to a kind of comprehensive statement that went beyond, you know, we need more missiles or we've got to send a man to the moon. i haven't mentioned the moon shot, but that was, i think, really more part of a cold war battle with the soviet union. and he was also a very competitive guy. i mean, he -- it's a cliche almost at this point, but he grew up in this big family playing touch football and doing
>> it's one of these things, you don't even need one of those cell phones or, you know, magic ear sticks, you know? you just go around and they press a button, and you walk into the room and you hear her voice. and each room of that house, she's talking about some sort of, you know, they live near the catholic church, and she liked to go there with the kids every day so that they saw that mass wasn't just for sundays, and, you know, there's a picture of mary and jesus in the bedroom where kennedy was born, and there's a picture of the vatican in the dining room.
and he made these speeches about godless, evil capitalism at notre dame and at assumption which are catholic colleges. and, you know, he could say, well, he wanted -- he was pandering to the catholic audience or the catholic vote, but then you get this testimony from people who said, you know, they saw him praying at night before he went to bed or barbara sinatra saying that when he went to visit in palm springs, he used to, he used to, he used to constantly be going to mass before chasing all the girls, which she thought was strange. [laughter] so, you know, he's sailing off of maine, and they're sending some, you know, navy tender boat to take him to some obscure chapel out there to go to mass.
so i think that, i think -- and he was skipping bacon on fridays to remember the day when jesus was killed. i mean, i think that stuff was serious for him, because people -- it wasn't known other than by his closest aides. no one would know if he skipped mass on a sunday, you know? when he was in maine. so i think that was, i think that was a serious thing for him in a way that a i think a lot of academic historians or journalists who are not personally religious can't quite get their minds around. >> and i hope you -- just let me ask one more question which is a more forward-looking question as opposed to formative influences. i though you're also an opinion journalist as well as, you know, sort of historian with this
book. so i wanted to ask you kind of what you think that the takeaway should be from this book for conservatives today and particularly, i guess, with the government shutdown going on, what you think what lessons jfk, you know, might present or might give to, you know, the congressional republicans right now. >> right. >> so sort of, i fess this is a question about your -- i guess this is a question about your larger purpose in writing the book as a conservative and what you sort of hope is going to be, you know, passed on to your own party. >> right. well, i think keeping an eye on the ball of economic growth and peace through strength and free trade, a sound dollar, domestic spending restraint are all important policies. i think those leadership principles of getting a wide spectrum of advice but also sticking to your principles and when you decide, decide are good advice, but, you know, i'm not really in the business of giving
advice to politicians. i'm more in the business of trying to figure out what the facts were of history so that, so that the politicians can read it and decide for themselves what worked and what didn't work and, you know, i guess the other thing that i would say also is, yeah, kennedy really tried to focus with congress on what was possible. i mean, he didn't go be for medicare. i mean, he stretched what was possible, right? he went for the moon. but for the tax cut, he really, he tried to find stuff with congress. it's a different situation, right? the democrats controlled both houses of congress during the kennedy administration. some of them were conservative
democrats who were not too kindly disposed towards some of the things that kennedy was trying to do. so i think, you know, focus on what's possible, stick to your principles and look for, look for things that can be a win/win, you know? like the free trade and the tax cut and the military spending. i mean, all that stuff there was broad, there was pretty broad support for that sometimes cut across party lines or ideological lines. so, i mean, growth is a great example, right? who's against growth? maybe some hard core environmentalist, but -- [laughter]
but, you know, or winning against the soviet union. who was against that? so kennedy managed to -- and i think all successful politicians -- managed to find what, i think frank luntz would call them 90% issues. 90 percent of the people are for that. >> we'll make in the last question. >> okay, thanks. thank you. i'm really intrigued about the book, the concept of seeing someone who has been viewed as a liberal essentially from a little different lens and thinking of him more as a key. but that may mean that our language has changed. not only our times have changed, but the language has changed too. and i'm wondering now you mentioned the senate democrats, particularly the chairman who were generally conservatives and much more interested in programs that, well, they were interested in programs that kennedy didn't necessarily support particularly in civil rights. but i'm, but i'm remarking now
and thinking about your just very last comments about how he seemed to focus more on the art of the possible, because there are many people who think that if lyndon johnson hadn't pushed through those programs, particularly the civil rights act and some of the other major legislation, it never would have gotten through under kennedy. so it's sounding to me maybe more like prague ma pragmatist is the worthed. and it's not a word you hear about with great acclaim today. people have their, you know, their points of view, and you've got these camps. and maybe what, you know, part of the legacy of this book may be that pragmatism and really not only thinking about what you want to do, but also thinking about what's good for the country and what the country can handle, maybe that's, maybe that's part of what the president ought to be doing. >> yeah. well, i guess, if you're a conservative democrat from
massachusetts, you get called a pragmatist. if you're a liberal republican from the south, you might get called a pragmatist. you know, kennedy, kennedy said sometimes it's not the labels that matter, and i go back and forth about whether he was right about that. i think the labels in some ways are useful lenses for helping us remember what actually happened. and that's, you know, that's really what i hope people will take away here. >> well, thank you very much. >> we'd like to hear from you. tweet us your feedback, twitter.com/booktv. >> november 22, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of president john f. kennedy, and there are several books that have been published this season to mark the event. throughout the month join other readers to discuss the kennedy
books published this year. simply go to booktv.org and click on book club. once there, you can check out some of the book club resources we have posted including book reviews and videos from the booktv archives, and you can log in as a guest or through your facebook or twitter account to post your thoughts on the kennedy books you're reading. then join booktv on saturday, november 30th, at 31 a.m. eastern -- 11 a.m. eastern to discuss live google chat. >> one of the articles of impeachment -- and this is all covered in my very first book, "high crimes and misdemeanors" -- against president nixon drafted by the able senate staffer hillary rodham clinton was lying to the american people. and what did he lie about? it was something he provably did not know was a lie when he said it, he said the white house was not involved in the break-in of the democratic offices at the
watergate hotel. and then later it turned it was a concern turned out he had known colloquially as the plumbers, and they had done some other black bag jobs for him, to wit, broken into dan well else burg's sigh chi test's -- sigh chi test's office. daniel els burg had stolen classified documents from the pentagon, gave them to the new york times. "the new york times" prints the pentagon papers. perhaps this audience does know, the pentagon papers did not cover the nixon administration. he was protecting the democratic administrations of lbj and kennedy. their conduct of the vietnam war. he was protecting the executive branch and the existence of classified materials. so, yeah, they broke into daniel elsburg's psychiatrist's office, and it was some of the same guys who broke into the watergate -- the democratic that headquarters.
liberals are utter obsessives. every weekend you can find them going into the library of congress to listen to the nixon watergate tapes, they are so obsessed with richard nixon. you would think they'd hear richard nixon pacing around his office saying what makes me so angry is that they think i would be stupid enough to break in to the watergate hotel democratic office. so he didn't know about it beforehand. he thought it was stupid. he did not think his people had anything to do with it. that was considered an impeachable offense when it was richard nixon. now we have a who told a lie he knew was a lie, and he lied in order to get a heinous policy, a heinous law through that is going to take away 94 million americans' health insurance policies. as we now know, they knew in 2010. but apparently, that's no longer impeachable. [applause] >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org.
>> booktv is looking at the life and death of president john f. kennedy in recognition of the 50th anniversary of his assassination in dallas on november 22nd, 1963. and now a panel of firsthand accounts on the assassination and its aftermath. panelists include hugh ainsworth who was reporting for the "dallas morning news" when the president was shot, dr. alan childs who was at parkland memorial hospital when president kennedy arrived, and howard will lets, the only living member of the warren commission. this panel, from the 2013 texas book festival in austin, is about 40 minutes. >> okay. my name is charles, i'm the book's editor, and we are supposed to have three gentlemen here. hugh is running late, apparently, so we're going to go ahead and get started since this is being televised.
but hugh ainsworth, who was the reporter who was on the scene when kennedy was killed in deally plaza in 1963, to my far left is alan childs who was at parkland hospital when kennedy arrived there. and he has written a book, an oral history of those people who were there. and then to my immediate left is howard willens. he was one of the key lawyers working on the warren commission that investigated the death of kennedy. so i'm going to start with mr. willens here, and he's going to read probably 5-8 minutes, and then we'll have childs who will read from his book for 5-8 minutes, and then we will have a discussion and open it up to questions. thank you very much. why don't you proceed, mr. willens. >> okay. thank you, charles, and to the supporters of the texas book festival. i'd like to express my appreciation for this opportunity to appear before an ever-growing crowd, it appears, and to tell you a little bit
about my experience with the warren commission staff nearly five decades ago. the first section i'd like to read from my book is entitled the genesis of the single bullet theory. one of the most significant developments in the commission's work started to take shape late in february. although working conscientiously on their analytical memoranda in order to make the deadline, the commission staff -- like most lawyers -- greatly preferred to confer and debate the issues. one of the important problems we faced was determining which of the bullets hit home and when. the film gave us a key to solving this problem. both the fbi and the secret service had separately and repeatedly examined the film. a group of our lawyers, joe ball, david melon, arlen specter, did the same often joined by fbi agent -- [inaudible] a photography expert who provided valuable assistance to the commission.
>> it was my first meeting with the man who was generally in charge with -- of the viewing. i asked him whether he thought more than one person had been shooting at the motorcade. his answer? that's what we're trying to find out. at this stage of the investigation, the lawyers questioned the conclusion reached by both the fbi and the secret service regarding the three shots believed to have been fired from the depository. although witnesses at the scene recalled hearing between two and six shots, the largest number heard three shots, and three cartridges had been discovered on the sixth floor of the depository. so three shots became our working hypothesis. initially, most of us thought that the first shot hit the president, the second hit
connolly and the third shot killed the president. connolly firmly believed that he had been hit by the second shot. after he had heard the first shot, and that he was not hit by the same shot that first hit kennedy. however, remnants of only two bullet withs were found in the presidential vehicle. close examination of the film gave us one way to help determine roughly when kennedy was first hit and when connolly was hit. if the interval between the first and the second shots covered a span of less than 2.25 seconds, the time estimated to be necessary for the assassin to fire two shots, it might suggest that a second rifle was involved. david melon worked hard in these early days to prove that a second gunman had participated in the assassination. he requested the secret service to ask the three physicians who attended to connolly's three wounds to retruck the position of the -- reconstruct the position of the governor as it must have been to receive the wounds that he did receive.
he received a set of drawings portraying the reconstructed position of connolly from five different viewpoints. melon then gave these drawings to the fbi asking the bureau to compare these drawings with the film and advise when, according to the film, connolly could not have been hit. the fbi advised that governor connolly was not in the position reconstructed by his doctor cans at any time after frame 240. the commission's lawyers working on the problem agreed with this determination. as additional information became available, this small group analyzed, evaluated and rejected theories, but there was one basic question that now seems very simple: where did the bullet go after it exited the president's neck? there was no evidence on the inside of the presidential car that reflected the damage that a bullet would have caused had it followed the trajectory and had the assumed velocity of the bullet that exited the president's neck. so at some point in these
collegial sessions, someone -- probably arlen specter -- suggested out loud what all in the group were thinking, that the first bullet that hit the president also created connolly's wounds. this possibility be of a single bullet hitting both men which contradicted connolly's statement and his later testimony before the commission was also of starting simplicity. it became the much-maligned single bullet theory. although we were all intrigued by this explanation, we immediately recognized its potential and controversial significance. before this theory could be accepted by the staff and presented to the commission, it needed to be challenged and tested in a variety of ways. that, in turn, led to the reenactment of the assassination that the commission conducted three months later. i would like to just read one additional short piece that took, relates to events in march of 1964. in response to a detailed
investigative request that we sent to the fbi, we got in return a very detailed response. but in that response j. edgar hoover said as follows: at the outset i wish to emphasize that the facts available to the fbi concerning lee harvey oswald prior to the assassination did not indicate in any way that he was or would be a threat to president kennedy, nor were they such as to suggest that the fbi should inform the secret service of his presence in dallas or his employment at the texas school book depository, end quote. hoover was not telling the truth. immediately after the assassination, hoover ordered an investigation to identify any deficiencies in the handling of the oswald case. on december 10 he received a report from assistant director james gayle which stated that there were a number of failures in the oswald security case. the report concluded, quote: oswald should have been on the security index, his wife should have been interviewed before the assassination, and the investigation intensified, not
held in advance after oswald contacted soviet embassy in mexico, end quote. gayle recommended that 17 fbi employees be censured or placed on probation for, quote, shortcomings in connection with the investigation of oswald prior to the assassination, end quote. and that action should be taken promptly despite the possibility that the warren commission might learn about it during the commission's existence. other fbi officials took the contrary position. assistant director suggested that the disciplinary action be deferred until the commission's findings were made public. hoover did not agree and implemented gayle's recommendations on the same day he received the report. personally ordering that all 17 fbi officials who had been involved this the fbi's dealings with oswald before the assassination be disciplined. his view was such that, quote, such gross incompetence cannot be overlooked, nor administrative action postponed, end quote.
assistant director belmont suggested in an addendum that it was significant that all the agents, supervises and -- supervisors and officials who had considered the issue had concluded that oswald did not meet the criteria for the security index. rather than discipline the 17 individuals, the criteria should be changed as recommended by gayle. hoover rejected this suggestion with a handwritten notation next to belmont's addendum. quote: they were worse than mistaken. certainly no one in full possession of all his faculties can claim oswald didn't fall within these criteria, end quote. hoover's deliberate false statement to the commission did not come to light until ten years later after hoover died when a congressional committee investigated the fbi's failures in connection with the assassination of kennedy. >> thank you, mr. willens. if you buy his book, you will find out that he played a key role in nearly every phase of
the warren commission investigation, but i want to introduce hugh ainsworth who has just arrived, just arrived shortly, a while ago. and he was the reporter at the scene when oswald shot kennedy. he was there when oswald was arrested at the texas theater, and he was there when jack ruby shot as wald. he was a reporter for the "dallas morning news" at the time, and he's written a book called "witness to history." we have let these two guys are going to read from their book, but you can speak or make remarks or whatever you wish to do, mr. ainsworth. >> well, perhaps i should explain why i was all those places, because some have accused me of being involved, you know. [laughter] actually, i was a reporter for the "dallas morning news", and i was not assigned any part of the kennedy coverage. and i was a little, little upset because with i'd been a reporter for 12 years already, and i
thought this was a pretty important story, and i should be involved. so everybody, you know, they came by and had coffee, and they said i'm going to the motorcade, i'm going out to love field, i'll be at the trademark, and i'm just sort of seething, you know? suddenly i decided, well, i've got to go over to the motorcade, to the parade route. you don't see a president every day, and it was rather exciting, and there was a mood in dallas that made me anticipatory. i thought there might be some embarrassment of some kind, because some people had warned they were going to picket the trademark or down up to area. so i got over there, and i saw a couple lawyer friends, and i positioned myself on elm street right -- had i looked up at 1:00, i could have seen that sixth floor window. i did not look up that way because the motorcade was coming in front of me, and everyone was so excited.
when they first hit main street, it was just an amazing thing because although there were kennedy haters in dallas, none of them showed up that day. it was a visceral type of feeling. it was excitement. cheering. i mean, five be, six, seven, eight people deep. and i was very, very pleased. and they went by, and it was -- they were so happy. the connollys and the kennedys. and everybody around me was too. exuberant. and then i thought i heard a motorcycle backfire. but it wasn't. that was the first shot. and then a couple, three seconds later, a second and a third. and i'm not a shooter, but i could tell that when i listened carefully to the second and third were rifle, the whine of the rifle. and the place went berserk. people were running, they didn't know where to run because, first, we didn't know who was shooting, how many were
shooting, where they were shooting from. we knew nothing. people were throwing their children down and covering them. people were running into each other. people were screaming and crying. and it was just complete pandemonium. and at that point i got a little bit busy. the newspaper man in me kicked in, and i thought aye got to inter-- i've got to interview everybody i see here. and there was one man particularly in front of me who was pointing up to that sixth floor window. he kept saying, he's up there, he's up there. i didn't know what he'd known or seen, but i had to interview him, and i did. i approached him. i don't know how much you want to go -- we're going to take questions later. >> yes, we are. >> yeah. anyway, from that i went on, heard that the officer had been shot, went to that scene. was in the theater when he was captured. that was pretty bizarre too. and then the sunday morning when i got up and i found out that he had not been moved during the
night, despite the fact they had all kinds of warning and threats, i ran like the devil for the city hall and was there when jack ruby shot his way into history. >> okay, thank you, mr. ainsworth. i need to restate the title of your book. i shortened it, apparently. it's "november 22, 1963: witness to history." >> thank you. >> yeah. okay. mr. childs. you were there at parkland. can you read us some of your book? >> i'm dr. alan childs, and on november 32, 1963 -- 22, 1963, almost 50 years ago, i was a medical student at the university of texas southwestern medical school and in the library of parkland hospital when the staccato pages began that all department heads report immediately to the emergency room. we, none of us had ever heard any page like that.
but be it began a -- but it began a day that none of us will ever forget. my book is not a historical retelling of events surrounding the assassination. nor is it an analysis of the events of that day and their impact. rather, the book is the human story of the assassination from the standpoint of the physicians, medical students and residents who were the first community to learn of the death of our president. ..
>> i have included archival histories from the oral testimony of the individuals who are no longer with us. now they are preserved for all time. i will read something from my book now. twice in a 35 minute timeframe, parkland hospital were was the center of worldwide attention and it was the temporary seat of the united states of america of the seat of government of united states of america, as well as the seat of government for the state of texas.
our 35th president died and diamond, room one. at that moment, the ascendancy of the 36 president of the united states occur. the president was assassins and we were there. like the patrons of the ford's theatre who witnessed the assassination of president lincoln, a blood splattered history assaulted our senses. some of us were in the emergency operating room and conspiracy berrios and the doctors at
parkland were the only ones who saw the neck wound before the emergency tracheotomy occurred, and they were unanimous that the neck wound was an entry wound and in time, however, most, but it's not all would believe this. the vein of recollection will report from those of us who stood at the emergency room loading dock, some of them who were in the room, some colossal errors that are here and we looked into the top down and saw the back seat covered in blood and the roses on the floor. there were about 150 of us standing there when we received word that the president had died about half an hour for the world new. i can never forget how the
wailing of the black people contrasted with the dry eyes that stunned medical students standing around. a first-year student lary held a telephone line open to cbs for their new york reporter, robert pierpoint, as this was long before satellite or cell phones, the payphones in the e.r. were the only communication with the outside world and for more than an hour, this freshman medical students that their and described to cbs what was going on in the emergency room while robert pierpoint went back to, room one. when robert pierpoint told walter cronkite who was broadcasting live that the priest had administered last rites to the president of the united states, walter cronkite would then say that i guess it doesn't get any more official than not.
eisenstein and other medical students saw this to whisk away lyndon johnson in the car, and a mexican-american man pulled up to the loading dock with his soon to deliver wife, and they allowed him in, but they stole his car. [laughter] >> many of us saw president johnson ghostly pale, surrounded by secret service men trundling him into.car. memories of jacqueline kennedy are in many of the narratives that i have received, and they reflect a primal sympathy for her. pepper jenkins, the anesthesia chief said this. as she circled in circle, i noticed her hands were cuffed in front of her as if she were cradling something.
as she passed, she nudged me with her elbow and she handed me what she had been nursing with her hands. it was a large chunk of her husband's brain tissue. in one of the most touching memories of the first lady is from a surgery resident who witnessed jackie kennedy moving toward the dead president and removing the wedding ring from his finger and placing it on her hand and kissed them goodbye. then there was a historic confrontation in the trauma room between county medical examiner earl rose and the secret service over the custody of the remains of the president. he said i was in their way. i was face-to-face with the secret service agent roy keller and i was trying to explain to him that the texas law required a non-toxic to be performed in texas. and no one was in charge of the
situation very an agent kellerman tried three tactics to have his way. he asserted his identity as representative of the secret service. he appealed for sympathy for mrs. kennedy and finally to use body language in an attempt to bully me. i was not looking at agent kellerman's gone, the guns were drawn. i was looking in his eyes and they were very intense. his eyes said that he meant to give the president's body back to washington. and in the wrong out silence of the parkland emergency room after president johnson, jackie kennedy, and the casket had gone, doctors, both of them walked into this, room number
one before it had been cleaned and in a wastebasket they found two dozen red roses given to the first lady at love field that morning and each removed a single rose and preserved his to this day. the eyewitness memories gathered in my book pain it previously unseen tapestries of this unforgettable time. some recollections are like the grainy black-and-white tv images of the day. while other memories are the graphic technicolor of surreal dreams. the chapters that follow detailed asides and feelings of our 45 authors and the shockwave first hit parkland hospital and then the world. the immediate actions and what they saw and felt are vividly
remembered half a century from that fateful day. the narrative tone began with the whole world cried the day that i met jfk. >> thank you. [applause] [applause] >> dr. childs committee bring up a point about the neck wound that has been used in used in conspiracy theories may possibly came from the front and this is in contradiction with what the one commission found and i believe you might have something to say on that. >> yes. in the book, it is a very touching recitation of the feelings and the endowment of many people at the time of the assassination. he does unfortunately extend his views from time to time to point
out that the one commission ignored some critical evidence that that is not the case. and i can elaborate on that later. and i think that hospitals did not turn the body over for very good reasons. they were concerned with saving the president's life. and they knew that that was going to be an uphill struggle and some of the senior positions thought it was from the very onset. but they began to have a complete knowledge from doctors at the facility that were conducting the autopsy by including two wounds from the rear, one from the upper shoulder of the back and the other entering on the right posterior of the skull. and watching them communicating their findings to the doctors, most of them are more likely
that they are wounded in the throat that it would be an exit wound. the doctors looked at the autopsy x-rays and photographs of 1968 and 1975, 1978, all of them look at the autopsy of the photographs and x-rays and opportunities that the one commission did not have, and all of those experienced graphologist concluded unanimously that 17 of the shots of the brain and heard from the right rear and entered from the top and the front end is shot through the back entry and read through the upper right shoulder and exited through the throat. seventeen pathologist agreed upon the shot through the head and 15 agreed upon a second shot to the back exiting through the throat and out 21 people who have examined the issue of qualifications beyond challenge,
20 out of 21 agreed that the single bullet theory is, in fact, not a theory but a conclusion of fact. and i have respect for the doctors but i'm sure share their skilled efforts to resuscitate a president who had brought so much hope and promise and what strikes me as a 50th anniversary approaches us, that we should honor our president with a fair understanding of his contribution and his weaknesses and his potential for changing the course of history and we should not demean his reputation by fostering and endorsing conspiracy theories that have no factual basis whatsoever. [applause] >> thank you. if you have anything to add to that? >> i'm very familiar with your work and i admire each monthly.
i think the one commission caused some of its own problems. at the time he began of january of 1964, there was only one conspiracy theory. mark twain came up and testified and made up all kinds of stories that he had spent four days by his own admission in dallas and he came up with allegations and he didn't really investigate to stop this with later became much more tumultuous. and i know is that one of those days and gave him a lot of material that he later turned around and talking to the one commission. there's a lot we have to
understand. and we had never thought of this before and had something of this magnitude happened. that was the military situation that was far off, and we had implications. the dial dallas was unusual. everyone from the top to the bottom made mistakes and talked and they shouldn't have. which also led to conspiracy theories by the hundreds. and he was asked how did they get to this building now. and they said that it was true. twenty reporters said who is the cab driver and he said there'll click.
to this day, there has never been a cab driver in the whole state of texas named there'll click. and they see pictures here of the officer holding it up in a the deputy sheriff said that that looks like a mauser. so reporters suddenly knew that he was a mauser. another chance showed that they lied to us. a good reporter from st. louis thought what he was cleaning the windshield and we were not there a few hours later, so he was on the inside. and once again they line lied to us. so many along the